March 13, 2009
It is often the case that Friday, the only day off in Egypt, is a busman’s holiday for archaeologists. When you work in a fascinating place like Egypt, there’s never an end to fascinating things to see.
When I was here in 2005, Adel Kelany and Ashraf Abd al-Aziz took a group of us on a tour of the Giza Plateau on our day off. Having worked there, they were able to show us hidden aspects of the plateau (hidden in plain sight, if you know where to look).
For example, Adel, who is a quarry expert, showed us the Roman cuttings on stones that the Romans had wrenched from Khafre’s pyramid casing. The Romans ruled Egypt until the fifth century AD, so the cuttings were made more than two thousand years after the pyramids were built.
Mohsen Kamel, Joint Field Director, never seems to stop working even at mealtimes. We are plotting to kidnap him to the White Desert.
Ana Tavares, Joint Field Director, always seems to work her days off. Today she is taking some of her field school students to survey the grounds of AERA’s new villa, in preparation for architectural plans for the field school section of the residence. The woman is mad for surveying so I’m sure she’s going to say this is a fun way to spend the holiday.
We’re hoping for a Friday at Saqqara with Ana because she’s AERA’s resident expert on the area. In 2005 she took us to the tomb of Maia, wet nurse to Tutankhamun, and the Saite tunnel into the center of the Step Pyramid.
Here and there in the villa, people are writing up weekly reports instead of going out for the day.
Sometimes, however, a longing for rest overcomes the desire to see another antiquity or write a report. I asked Freya Sadarangani and James Taylor what they were up to for the day off and James used an unprintable Briticism that indicated they’d be doing as little as possible (probably watching Dexter).
Evenings are different. Since Thursday night here is like Friday night at home, a party is not out of order. At a recent one, intern Alex Jacobsen prepared hard-bitten archaeologists for future careers as cheerleaders.
When the professional archaeologists heard that they were getting an American former cheerleader as an intern, they were dreading the weeks of babysitting ahead of them. Alex has proved to be a hardworking, dedicated novice, willing to do anything asked of her … including cheerleading … and who loves nothing better than to be covered head-to-toe in Late Period grave dirt. She’s really the most un-cheerleader-like cheerleader we’ve ever met.
Last Sunday was not a day off, as the team gave lectures at the SCA. But there was a barbeque at the villa in the evening with friends and donors.
I have the easiest job here: observation and gossip. I may extend my stay to finish out the season in the blog. I want cover more of the actual archaeology on the ground and, insha’allah, that shall be forthcoming.